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I found you in New York City walking on the northside of West 50th, between 8th and Broadway. You’d told me you had already eaten, refusing my invitation to join me for lunch. I was in town for a gallery opening; you were in town to stay. “Break a leg,” you’d said, but I was never an actor; and I watched you walk, with purpose, away.
I found you in Philadelphia on the corner of 10
th and Pine, leaving a grocery store with a full paper bag. I waved at you from the opposite side of the street, and you waved back with a cordial smile colder than the brick facings of the townhouses. I gasped when you appeared to lose your grip on the paper bag—I wanted to run across the street and help you carry it—but you didn’t lose your grip. You’d had it all along.
I found you in Boston, drinking an espresso and eating a croissant at a small, nondescript café in the North End. I was in line for a cappuccino. You’d let me sit with you then, and we spent hours talking about our old friends and the weekend we’d enjoyed together in Vermont. I’d told you I loved you that weekend, and you’d given no reply. In Boston, I told you again, “I love you,” and you rose from our table, told me you were very sorry, and left.
I found you next in New Orleans, browsing an antique shop on Royal Street through its front windows. You saw the reflection of me standing behind you, but you never turned around to face me. Our eyes met in the glass for a stare that felt to me like eternity, but in reality lasted perhaps no more than ten seconds. Before I could speak, you held up your hand to silence me. I balked and lowered my head. When I’d built enough courage to raise my eyes to you again, you were gone.
I found you in St. Louis staring, your head tilted upward, at the arch. It was midday, and the sun had turned that silver structure heavenly white and blinding. You weren’t wearing sunglasses or shielding your gaze with your hand, yet your eyes were wide as if searching through a jungle at night. I could not approach you then; a man stood at your side, a man who called you “darling,” a man whom you called “my love.”
I found you in Chicago, where two of my paintings were being displayed at an open-air gallery along Navy Pier. You kissed my cheek when you greeted me, and I graciously kissed yours in return. That night, we drank at a bar together. You told me about the man in St. Louis whose name you couldn’t bear to mention. You told me that he’d struck you across the face with the back of his hand, told me that you’d been strong enough to end it then and there, and that you hadn’t spoken to him since. And still later than night, our heads fuzz-covered pillows from all the alcohol, you came with me to my hotel room. We made love in a way that reminded me of Vermont. You fell asleep beside me, and in the morning you were gone.
I found you a few years later in Providence, though I was not ready to find you then. I had a woman in Providence, and she was having dinner with me in an Italian restaurant in the Federal Hill district when you walked through the door. You exchanged a word or two with the hostess, then sat at the bar and drank two glasses of red wine. I watched you for the rest of the night, stared at the back of your head and the back of your body and stared at the contemplative way you lifted your glass before taking a drink. The woman I was with that night, had been with for just over a year, ended our relationship a month later. She said I had grown too distant and ethereal. I lived in Providence with her, and I watched her leave the apartment, box by box, without a single notion of guilt.
I found you soon after in Princeton, where I’d given a three-day lecture on nature and Impressionism at the university. I found your face in the audience of students and professors on the second day. Critics called my work “The New Impressionism”; that was one reason why the university had contacted me. I’d known so little of the histories of Monet, van Gogh, and their peers; but I knew nature well. I still do. I interact with it every day. I thought the lecture had been a disaster, but you came to me after the second day, after the students and professors had filed out of the lecture hall, and you told me I had spoken beautifully, that you planned to come the next day to see the end. I was not surprised when I could not find you there the next day. By then, I knew you well and would not allow myself to be discouraged.
Thirty years later, I found you in a casket in a funeral home five miles north of San Francisco where you had made a life with a man ten years younger. You’d given birth to his children, three of them; I offered my condolences to the eldest, your daughter, and the twins, two boys, before shaking your husband’s hand and telling him how sorry I felt.
“How did you know her?” he asked.
“She was a good friend,” I said. “We grew up together.”
“In Portland?”
“Yes.” But I did not tell him how I’d loved you, did not tell him how often and how strangely our paths had crossed, nor did I tell him that the thought of you could make the loneliest nights so much lonelier. I only told your husband the simplest thing and then walked, with purpose, away.


Sean Fitts lives in Cranston, Rhode Island. He is a graduate of La Salle University in Philadelphia. His poetry had appeared in Sisyphus Quarterly and Instigatorzine. His short story "Sonsofbitches" was recently published by His one-act plays have been produced by The Barn Theatre in Montville, New Jersey.


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